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Dempsey: U.S. can’t stop Syrian chemical weapon attack

by Mike Hoffman on January 11, 2013

President Obama has drawn the line in the sand with Syrian Civil War. The U.S. will not get involved unless Syrian President Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons.

U.S. military analysts have seen movement at the Syrian chemical weapons depots leading some to believe the Syrians were preparing to use them as the rebels moved on Damascus. The Jordanians also found proof the Assad regime was outfitting fighter jets with the ability to carry chemical weapons. 

However, if the Syrians did choose to use their chemical weapons, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted the U.S. military could do little to stop them.

“The — the effort — or the act of preventing the use of chemical weapons would be almost unachievable, Jennifer, because the — you would have to have such clarity of intelligence, you know, persistent surveillance, you’d have to actually see it before it happened, and that’s — that’s unlikely, to be sure,” Dempsey said Thursday.

He explained the best deterrent to Syria using chemical weapons is the threat of the consequences from the U.S. and other allied nations.

“I think that Syria must understand by now that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable.  And to that extent, it provides a deterrent value.  But preventing it, if they decide to use it, I think we would be reacting,” Dempsey said.

Defense Secretary Panetta tried to ease concerns that the Assad regime would use the chemical weapons. He explained that the Pentagon is more worried about what to do with the chemical sites should Assad fall from power. Military officials are working on plan to protect the sites from outside actors gaining access to the weapons.

“I think the greater concern right now is, what steps does the international community take to make sure that, you know, when Assad comes down, that there is a process and a procedure to ensure that we get our hands on securing those sites,” Panetta said.

He denied the immediate notion that the U.S. would send ground troops into Syria, but he said it depends on the situation on the ground should Assad fall.

“We’re not talking about ground troops, but, I mean, obviously, you know, it depends on what kind of — what happens in a transition.  Is there a permissive atmosphere?  Or is it a hostile atmosphere?  And that’ll tell you a lot,” Panetta said.

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{ 86 comments }

Pablo January 11, 2013 at 4:40 pm

The US is afraid the fight might spread into the neighboring countries, especially Jordan. They want to contain the fight, but don't want it to reach a certain level where it would put other countries in question whether they want to get involved or not.

Lance January 11, 2013 at 5:26 pm

SO whats the point of all this babel anyway. Iraq used them and the Soviets did whats new. With the US withdrawing w/o victory from Afghanistan who cares about Islamist rebels in Syria when we might just lose our war against the Taliban due to Obama.

Dave M. January 11, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Withdrawing without victory? What's your definition of victory?

Anonymous January 12, 2013 at 12:21 am

Victory = No Taliban or Al-Q in Afghanistan 3 months after 9/11 because they all fled to Pakistan.

Then some numb nut decided to stay there for 10 years and chase phantoms in Iraq.

Rest Pal August 28, 2013 at 11:31 pm

propaganda junkie, 9-11 was an inside job.

didn't do well in your physics class, did ya.

MckGyver January 11, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Let's be honest, NATO (read, America) can do a Libya 2.0, no troops just aerial bombardment. Effective and cheap.

tiger January 12, 2013 at 1:13 am

Which was not cheap or effective & dragged on for 6 months.

majr0d January 12, 2013 at 2:25 pm

There have been attacks on the US launched from the Pakistan tribal regions (Times Square Bomber) and Yemen (printer cartridges, underwear bomber 2.0). Just an example of how effective drones are against terror plots.

Papi1960R January 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Maybe we should stop buying OPEC oil including Saudi oil. Stop ALL aid, travel, immigration and trade with the whole region. Like they say, they just want to left alone.

zak January 16, 2013 at 10:23 am

Why should we? Let NATO do it themselves.

BlackOwl18E January 11, 2013 at 6:37 pm

I don't want to get involved in Syria even if Assad uses chemical weapons. I would much rather sit back and let them settle it themselves. The Assad regime has lost its legitimacy and its downfall is now inevitable. If they use chemical weapons it will only prolong the Civil War in Syria. One thing I've noticed in my studies in history is that the longer Arab-Islamic forces in the Middle East spend fighting each other the less they focus on us here in the west. We also never know what new enemies we will make in the process of intervening. Let the Syrians duke it out to their heart's content.

crackedlenses January 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Along with that I would also encourage Israel to do whatever they feel necessary to protect themselves. Hezbollah, I'm sure, would love to turn some of this stuff on Israeli cities. If we aren't going to get involved, then we need to back Israel's efforts to cope with the problem.

Nadnerbus January 12, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Yeah, from what I have seen and heard out of Iraq, the only way things settled down was after the towns and neighborhoods had effectively finished self segregating and ethnic cleansing themselves. The US helped stand in between the factions and moderate, but the bloodletting kind of had to happen to come to a point of stasis.

Unfortunately, I've come to the conclusion over the years that all the smart bombs and special forces in the world can't change the fact that one side has to know they lost. And that usually means massive casualties and dead leadership. Trying to avoid the deaths just means dragging out the conflict over decades instead of years.

Stay out of it, let them kill each other, and then figure out what we have to do after a new government emerges. How would the US look if France had tried to intervene in and stop our Civil War?

zak January 16, 2013 at 10:30 am

The Islamic radicals view this as a war that's been ongoing for centuries and that's how we need to view it as well.

Tom January 13, 2013 at 8:51 am

Now tell all of that into the face of a mother living there. You so called professors in history schould know well that leaving the hands off something really bad can easily lead to a hemisphere-wide war or even global war. We will finally have to fight something bigger to correct the mistakes that were made.

tiger January 13, 2013 at 5:42 pm

If the Syrians duke it out,You could have it's Arsenals emptied just like Libya's. Only now with chemical stuff in the hands of ??????????

Phono January 14, 2013 at 7:54 am

Hm, sorry you missed the tough question at the End of the Article – what if Assad looses control over his chemical arsenal? Would you like to have al-nusra or boko-haram related groups gain control of it?

Many people stated that with time it would be unavoidable to intervene in Syria, Dempsey's Statements seem to make that even clearer.

BlackOwl18E January 14, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Chemical arsenals have an expiration date. Also, chemical weapons are not that good for killing large amounts of people. They are brutal in method but it is very difficult to disperse them to anywhere near the kind of effect that biological and nuclear weapons can be used to. These weapons are still not worth jumping into a new conflict and making a whole new string of enemies. If the U.S. did use any kind of military action it should only be to destroy those chemical weapons and leave as quickly as possible. It looks like we couldn't get all of them even if we tried though. I would still prefer to sit back and let whatever happens just happen.

Phono January 15, 2013 at 5:06 am

These Weapons does pose a serioues threat to troops and bases in the region, if they get in the wrong hands. Worst case: in a question of a few years they might spread throughout islamist networks in the hole middleeast, and you can't even imagine now, what ideas they might get wirth this possibility.
So it looks like one has to step in before Assad falls – I suppose this might be verry soon.

Phono January 15, 2013 at 5:09 am

sadly, I totally understand your position. I would prefer not getting involved, too. Would be better there were some democratic islamic force that could step in there.

kiwiwni January 11, 2013 at 8:07 pm

"President Obama has drawn another line in the sand with Syrian Civil War"

Fixt.

tiger January 12, 2013 at 1:17 am

ASK Iran & North Korea about his line drawing…

SJE January 14, 2013 at 3:16 am

North Korea happened on Bush's watch. The sanctions on Iran are working better now than before.

tiger January 14, 2013 at 8:29 am

Try again…. The missile launches, the Island shelling, The sinking of the Chenowan & the deaths of 46 men are on Obama's watch.

SJE January 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Agreed. on that.

C-Low January 11, 2013 at 8:45 pm

I agree with the O on this one. If the Syrian gov goes with the WMD we should intervene with areal firepower to limit, contain the effect then continue to destroy the WMD so it is no longer a option for either side.

Meanwhile let the old way work. "the only thing better than killing your enemy is getting to watch two enemies kill eachother" it was true in Iran Iraq 80's and true today Syria vs Islamist.

Are part in this meat grinder should be maintaining the grind evenly so regardless the victor neither side will threat US or the neighborhood for sometime.

The end loser being Assad has benefits by breaking the Iranian crescent, taking the Hezbo's strategic depth/safe resupply, also checking the radical leaning Shia in Iraq by giving Anbar strategic depth/safe resupply. The catch is it only works if the balance is right and the Syrian Islamist are ground down to the point were they will not be able to run over the liberal Syrians and will have to compromise power share.

So far so good. Let her grind while setting up the liberal Syrians for the day after.

Jeff January 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm

EXACTLY!!!! Lets hope this very thing occurs in Iran soon so we can watch it bleed to death too. I'd like to see a Kurdish country from eastern Syria through northern Iraq and into western Iran. And lets keep the turmoil on the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt.

Afghanistan will likely turn into a bloody civil war after 2015 (more Muslims killing Muslims) and if we are lucky India will get real tired of Pakistan's S#@T and nuke um.

Muslim's were suppose to overtake the Christians in population by 2030…..

majr0d January 12, 2013 at 2:29 pm

"the only thing better than killing your enemy is getting to watch two enemies kill eachother"

Soviet vs. Mujh, Taliban vs. Northern Alliance

There's a lesson there…

CTSPOOK January 14, 2013 at 9:50 am

Sounds like you have had a few briefings in the recent past. Good luck with your efforts.

Benjamin January 14, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Airpower??
Airpower alone will not be able to stop the use of ballistic missiles armed with chemical weapons. They are to easily hidden. That requires grounds forces to weed them out.

david January 11, 2013 at 11:57 pm

More lies from Obama just like when Powell lied to the world about Iraq's WMDs. Don't be fooled again by these lying politicians.

zivbnd January 12, 2013 at 7:18 pm

david, the problem there is that everyone that knew anything, "knew" that Iraq had WMD. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Madeline Albright all said prior to the war that Saddam had WMD and might use them if we invaded. The French, the Vatican, heck when the US Army was taking Karbala in 2003, even Saddam's own generals begged him to release the WMD to them so they could use it to attack the US troops. If Saddam's generals thought he still had WMD, how in the world could Powell and Bush have known he didn't have them?

Phono January 14, 2013 at 8:00 am

Why did Fisher know it?
Because the information came from the most increditable source of the BND. As we all know now, these were partly pure fictions told to earn money with it. Collin Powell later stated that he feels personally responsibel and verry sorry for this sad moment of international politics. He sad he has been "misled" by the government he was a part of.

Vaporhead January 14, 2013 at 8:04 am

All hearsay. When our CIA doesn't have covert operatives who can verify that Saddam actually had WMD's, then it's all hearsay. The CIA is filled with inept bafoons. 9/11 is a prime example of our "intelligence agency."

Paul January 17, 2013 at 9:31 am

take another vape from the bag, doo-oooood.

rudyh60 January 16, 2013 at 9:04 pm

The very same weapons that Hussein had relocated and buried in the Syrian desert……

SFC-C+11 January 18, 2013 at 10:06 pm

David, back in the second half of the 1980's I worked Chemical and Biological production facilities worldwide in Washington, D.C. Saddam HAD THEM! I have since then, recently, seen reports that stated high ranking Iraqi officers / officials said that LITTERALLY weeks (about 3) before the war, Saddam had his WMD sent to Syria overland and by air (a converted passenger aircraft).

Hefe January 12, 2013 at 1:49 am

I wanted to post that the US sent special agents from the CIA to analyze what the rebels political philosopy was. As it turns out they think the US is the great Satan and Isreal should be obliterated. They don't sound like a group of people that we should spend billions of dollars defending should Al -Assad decide to use chemical weapons. Lets let them fight it out and not be the world's police. Why replcae the devil we know with the one we don't?

Nadnerbus January 12, 2013 at 5:26 pm

The return of Real Politik after a ten year meat grinder in Afghanistan and Iraq is pretty much inevitable. We have no friends in the region, only interests.

STemplar January 12, 2013 at 5:57 am

We need to put up or shut up. The Obama national security approach is far worse than Bush 2. We keep running around all over the place making pronouncements and not backing any of it up in any meaningful way. If we don't want to get involved I'm fine with that, but this constant drum beat of calling for Assad's ouster and how we'll 'hold him accountable' makes us look like a lot of hot air. The UN is the international version of the US Congress, a bunch of useless bags of poop in suits standing around arguing, accomplishing nothing, and wasting a ton of money in the process.

Kim January 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Right. Should've put Michelle Bachman in The Oval Office, with SP as the weep. That would scare just about everybody into submission, including Europe.

zak January 16, 2013 at 10:52 am

It doesn't make "us look like a lot of hot air", it demonstrates conclusively that under Obama we are exactly a lot of hot air.

Thanks Mr. President.

vvvvvvvvvvvv January 13, 2013 at 3:00 am

somali haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaf

Name January 13, 2013 at 6:28 am

Why the hell are they so worried about chemical weapons? What did we use when Hussein was using mustard gas and shit back in the Gulf war. Freaking gas masks and other protective gear.

Tom January 13, 2013 at 8:55 am

And what did it take to finally kill him? We should have killed him back then during the first…..thats the lesson.

tiger January 13, 2013 at 4:36 pm

You should worry WHo has control of them. While Assad is bad. What happens if the the Al Queda types get them?

Benjamin January 14, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Civilians do not have gas masks. THe worry is if terrorist get a hold of the chemical/biological weapons not a government.

majr0d January 13, 2013 at 3:01 pm

We've put ourselves in an incredibly difficult position.

Stand aside and do nothing means the Jihadis take power. Not our problem today or even tomorrow but no doubt they will be. Egypt is on the path of another Iran, a gift that keeps on giving.

Intervene if Assad uses chem? How? Airpower doesn't remove ordnance from the enemy. After chem weapons are distributed it takes troops on the ground to stop their use and we have no belly for that. Do nothing and we look even more helpless.

crackedlenses January 13, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Let the Israelis handle it. The world is fond of dumping on them anyway; short of getting WMD thrown at them compliments of Hezbollah they have nothing to lose.

majr0d January 13, 2013 at 9:34 pm

That might be the solution but should the Israelis "address" the problem we shouldn't punish them for proactively protecting themselves instead of accepting a threat we wouldn't accept as we "lead from behind".

crackedlenses January 14, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Completely agree. We need to either jump in whole-heartedly or back up Israel.

Musson January 14, 2013 at 8:49 am

Or, we could get involved and hand the country over to the Jihadis.

/S

blight_ January 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm

It feels like the late '80s/early '90s again, complete with the same result. Handing Afghanistan over the jihadis.

orly? January 14, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Airpower doesn't remove ordinance, but it can very well make them harder to get.

You can hit the bunkers they are in and rupture them if there is no consideration of civilian losses.

It would take a ton of effort, luck, PPE, and equipment to retrieve chemical weaponry intact after they've been hit by regular ordinance.

majr0d January 14, 2013 at 8:41 pm

ID'ing ALL the ammo bunkers (chem bunkers don't look different than bunkers storing HE) throughout the country is no simple task let alone attacking them. That cat got out of the bag a LONG time ago (once the chem components were moved from the depots our military options to STOP chem use were pretty limited to a huge ground op).

orly? January 15, 2013 at 10:15 am

You're saying we can never hit ALL bunkers?

Because of what? AA?

majr0d January 15, 2013 at 2:29 pm

There are several challanges. ID'ing them being the first. They don't say "ammo bunker" on the roof.

crackedlenses January 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Gotta find them before you can hit them AND before the enemy cleans them out and deports or buries the contents.

No oil.. January 13, 2013 at 4:05 pm

It is a shame that a military intervention is limited to rich oil countries in the name of Human Rights. Preventing daily aerial bombing against civilians and possible chemical attacks become a difficult job to the US!! When peacefull protestors were fired last year in Syrian streets they were asking for freedom.. Someone here says "let arabs and muslims kill each other, it is better for us". His comment is largely acceptable ! Are they all human beings or we are the lords of a jungle??

Tiger January 13, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Musson January 14, 2013 at 8:50 am

The Middle East is like High School.

It is better to be feared than liked.

Benjamin January 14, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Unlike Vietnam, Korea (1950's), Desert Storm, Libya, Iraq and others Syria has an extensive ballistic missile and NBC program. It is far greater then the program Iraq had during the 1980's. Also based upon there location, they could fire there missiles at several large westernized cities.
If foreign forces intervene, the amount of dead may easily be 10 fold.

zak January 16, 2013 at 11:06 am

You can't slash military spending while also getting involved in another major Arabic war. You can't have both as it isn't possible.

It's amazing how so many Americans don't connect funding with capability.

James January 13, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Sev January 14, 2013 at 8:49 am

A Syria with chemical weapons is dangerous for the same reasons Iran is dangerous with nukes.

An Iran with nukes is dangerous for precisely the reason Israel’s nukes or China’s are not dangerous. The Iranian regime is unstable — like Pakistan and North Korea — and using nukes to give it an artificial solidity only means loose marbles will have to be collected when it inevitably falls over. The same scenario applies to Saudi Arabia. If Iran’s bomb brings on the Kingdom’s — supplied presumably from Pakistan — and the other Gulf States follow in their nuclear path the danger is what happens afterward.

t is only since the Arab Spring that we can clearly see how fragile these authoritarian regimes are. Underneath the facade they are rotten to the core. The WMDs and big armies gave their strongmen a false sense of security which obviated the incentive for internal reform. Khadaffy and now Assad are learning that while such weapons may protect you against foreign enemies they are useless against internal rebellion. In fact they may act something like the eggs laid by an ichneumon wasp in a host. When they hatch, they kill you. WMDs can eat out a rotten regime from within. They incubate power centers, ambitious ‘mad majors’ or invite an invasion of jihadis (as is the case with Syria) who desire to possess them.

Papi1960R January 14, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Having spent 16 years of my adult life and 8 years of my childhood in Islamic countries I do not agree with any bombing or armed intervention into these countries.
I do not agree that the are people like us, they are a sub-species that needs to be exterminated permantly.
US intervention just too expensive, never works and a gross assault on the US taxpayer.
Muslims killing off Muslims is best for the world and our pocketbooks.

Thomas L. Nielsen January 15, 2013 at 7:40 am

"….they are a sub-species that needs to be exterminated permantly."

Don't forget to include the Jews, the Communists, the Social Democrats, the Homosexuals and the Gypsies. There's no reason to do things by half, now is there?

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

frank January 14, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Can't America go 5sec without bombing somebody?

tiger January 15, 2013 at 1:34 am

Ok, we will all join hands, have a Coca Cola, & sing Peter Paul & Mary songs while we reload the bomb racks……..

Yellow Devil January 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Can't the world go 4 seconds without doing something stupid.

crackedlenses January 15, 2013 at 3:16 pm

+10

joey pepperoni January 15, 2013 at 11:56 pm

somebody bomb this guy

Mr. Aguacates January 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Catch22 January 16, 2013 at 11:26 pm

According to news reports, Syria may have already used chemical weapons. I don't hear anything out of the POTUS about that.

Sydney F. Haase January 17, 2013 at 2:19 am

the United States is no longer a threat. All these other countries will do what they want. because they do not fear us anymore.

Edward January 17, 2013 at 9:01 am

It may sound heartless but let them kill each other. Both sides in this war are evil, there are no good guys. The govt. forces are murdering civilians and the mindless rebels only know two words "Allah Ahkbar" and we all know what that means. I had the same feeling when Iran ad Iraq were battling it out..let them slaughter each other.

matthew January 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm

allauh akbar means god is great of thats what your trying to say

matthew January 18, 2013 at 5:58 pm

the picture up top is misleading, its actually a picture of an american made missile with a chemical warhead and is being disposed of by an american service member

Nadnerbus January 12, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Your compassion is very human and good. But the entire human history points the other way. It sucks, but there it is. When two factions have differences great enough to go to war and kill over, there really is no end until one is completely vanquished. Trying to stop it be intervening just gets our troops killed and drags out the conflict.

Now, helping by funding refugee camps, food aid, providing asylum for select refugees, bringing political pressure to bear on the parties involved, I am good with all that. But I don't want to keep sending our troops in to solve other people's problems. It doesn't usually work out well for either them or us.

zivbnd January 12, 2013 at 7:08 pm

person, my heart says you right, but my head tells me history hasn't changed and that letting the mostly sunni jihadis kill the kinda shia Alawites and vice versa until they are both exhausted is the least bad option we can help to occur. The jihadis are going to win, but with Iran on their side, the Alawites will probably make it a Pyrrhic victory for the jihadis.
Militant islam was focused like a laser on the US from 1998 to 2003. Now, there are so many islamic groups killing each other that they don't have nearly the energy to attack us as they otherwise would have had.

zak January 16, 2013 at 10:43 am

We have the capability but not the money. You can't get committed to yet another Arabic war while also slashing DoD spending. Our military equipment is thrashed after 2 Arabic wars and we need to rebuild, not run everything into the ground.

Papi1960R January 14, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Things like this happen when you send a high profile supporter of Gay rights to work in Islamic countries.

Joseph Dias August 28, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Nor was Libya legal! No Congressional approval was given for military intervention into that country!

crackedlenses January 14, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Unfortunately that part didn't come out until after he died. Someone definitely needs to be fired for sending Stevens to Libya of all places….

Phono January 15, 2013 at 5:22 am

thank you for additional information :)

Rest Pal August 28, 2013 at 11:33 pm

even with congressional approval it would be illegal.

the US has no right to invade a sovereign nation, regardless of what false pretenses the criminal US government can come up with.

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